New Brighton church removed from Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ register

Today (Thursday 10 November) Historic England publishes its annual Heritage at Risk Register for 2022.

The Register gives an annual snapshot of the critical health of England’s most valued historic places and those most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Over the past year, ten historic buildings and sites have been added to the Register in the North West because of their deteriorating condition and ten sites have been saved and their futures secured. Many have been rescued thanks to heritage partners and dedicated teams of volunteers, community groups, charities, owners and councils, working together with Historic England.

One of the buildings saved is the Church of Saints Peter, Paul and St Philomena, New Brighton, also known as the “Dome of Home”, sought out by sailors returning from perilous Atlantic voyages.

Trevor Mitchell, Regional Director of the North at Historic England said, “The historic buildings and places we are helping to save bring people together and inspire deep pride and a sense of belonging. 

“This year’s successes are testament to the tireless work of owners, custodians and local volunteers taking action to bring historic places back to life and help to level-up communities across the North West.”

Canon Poucin
Detail of dome from the southeast

SAVED: Church of Saints Peter, Paul and St Philomena, New Brighton

A landmark feature on the Wirral peninsula since completion in 1935, the church’s soaring brick-encapsulated concrete frame and copper dome signposts the entrance to the River Mersey.

During the Second World War, returning sailors would seek out the distinctive form of the ‘Dome of Home’, a sign they had survived the perils of the Atlantic. 

The Church was added to the Heritage at Risk Register following decades of water penetration which resulted in its closure in 2008. A dedicated team from the church and the local community, led by Institute of Christ the King clergy who care for the church, galvanised action throughout five phases of restoration work over nine years to bring about its painstaking restoration and removal from the Register. 

The first phase began in 2013 to address the most severely affected area damaged by water ingress, including conservation work to the concrete frame threatening the survival of the entire structure, window restoration, re-pointing the brickwork, re-roofing and insulation. This was closely followed by Projects Two (2014) and Three (2016) focussing on different high-level areas of this majestic church. Project Four (2018-2021) was a larger challenge, because it involved the concrete restoration of the Dome, Drum and main Sanctuary roof.

During final delivery of this project, further works took advantage of the internal scaffolding to transform the interior with new lighting and decoration schemes, centred on the revival of the elegant interior, where a concrete vaulted frame once again encloses an impressive worship space. The extensive works were funded by private donors, large and small, and organisations including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Churches Trust, AllChurches Trust, Historic Cheshire Churches Preservation Trust, Wallasey Bright Ideas Fund, Love Wirral, The Latin Mass Society, Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme and the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund. 

Canon Amaury Montjean said, “So many people from the local community have been involved in restoring both this amazing building and its spiritual purpose. Together with the expertise and funding provided by so many people and organisations, their belief and determination mean that the Dome of Home will continue to be a much-loved landmark and focal point for the community for many years to come.”

Images: Historic England Archive. Main image: Church of Saints Peter and Paul and Saint Philomena, New Brighton. Canon Poucin on the ridgeline of the barrel vaulted roof while inspecting the newly conserved dome.

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